Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Jan 2015 - Pomarine Skua in Lancs

Following on from the excellent start to the year in East Yorkshire, a trip to Slimbridge was made on 3rd January. As with most weekends in January, it was forecast to rain and so we thought there would be plenty of cover for us. The female Ferruginous Duck was found in the Asian Pen and showed quite well. We also had 110 White-fronted Geese, plenty of Bewick's Swans, six Barnacle Geese and a Merlin

Ferruginous Duck at Slimbridge

The following weekend, the 10th January, strong winds were forecast but we battled on, visiting a few sites in Staffordshire before we finally gave up and went home. Highlights of this day were a fine Black Swan at Whitemoor, where there were good numbers of Yellowhammers and Tree Sparrows seen. 

The 17th January saw a trip down to Devon where three PENDULINE TITS had been showing frequently during the week at Darts Farm near Topsham. We were the first car in the car park, and as we were getting our kit together, another car pulled up. Next thing someome was shouting we couldn't park there! It was only the Clayheads No.1 Stalker Ian "The Stalker" who had followed us all the way down the M5 from Stoke just to see where we were going. Such dedication. We waited three hours for the PENDULINE TITS to appear, but they didn't. We headed to Broadsands were the Cirl Buntings showed well in the car park, plus some good sea watching in the bay saw a Velvet Scoter, several Great Northern Divers and three Black-necked Grebes

 Cirl Buntings at Broadsands

Last stop of the day was in Brixham Harbour, where seven Purple Sandpipers showed very well on the breakwater. In fact we were standing above them and looking down at them. We also saw this stunning Oystercatcher.

And so on to Sunday 25th January and a trip to Lancashire. First stop was at Pilling for the Pomarine Skua. Unfortunately it isn't looking it's best anymore, and spent most of our visit walking around a field like a rabbit. (Actually as we were walking along the path, I did think it was a rabbit before I lifted my bins. Not many birders have mistaken a Pom Skua for a rabbit). We also had good views of the flock of c70 Twite.

Next stop was at Rossall Point for the wintering SHORE LARK. The grassy area where it frequented was full of dog walkers and people walking about. We knew there was no chance of it being there. We headed down to the beach. I wanted to head to the right, PJ wanted to go left. We went left, walked only a few steps when a large ish bird flew past us. I saw where it dropped and amazingly there was the Shore Lark.

Shore Lark by Phil Jones

We headed down to Blackpool for the TUNDRA BEAN GOOSE at Mythop. We found the large flock of Pink-feet, but we could only view from the car or else we would have flushed them. We pulled up next to the only other car watching them, and he shouted out directions for us. PJ even managed to get out of the car and knocked on his passenger door window. We were really struggling and just couldn't get our eyes on to it, despite the goose being fairly close. Then I found the bird he was watching. Sadly, its legs were a rich pink, rather than orange. We left, but we did see some Whooper Swans nearby.

Whooper Swans by PJ

We had decided we wanted to end the day at Chaswater, following the previous nights report of a possible THAYER'S GULL in the roost. There was a good turn out for the roost, with quite a few of Staffordshire's active birders assembled. The roost wasn't a massive one, but we did manage a 2w Yellow-legged Gull, 3w Caspian Gull and an adult Iceland Gull.

Iceland Gull at Chasewater

3w Caspian Gull at Chasewater

Friday, 2 January 2015

1st January 2015 - Little Bustard, Yorkshire

I have to confess but I'm not a fan of New Year celebration. I don't know the words beyond the first line of Old Land Sign and it irritates me when people endlessly wish me Happy New Year when the year is only minutes old. How do they know it's going to be a Happy New Year? It could turn out to be a right crap year. For me last year was a bit of a tricky one (When "Golum" walked past me at the Yellow-rumped Wrb twitch I knew I wasn't in A1 condition). So this year me and my wife decided not to wish each other a happy new year at all. Goodbye 2014 - and a warm welcome to 2015.

 A beautiful first sunrise of a new exciting year

We were always planning a New Years Day trip as we do every year (and that's another reason not to have a late night). This year we decided on North Wales. Unfortunately, the forecast was pretty dire, and we didn't fancy a wet day like we had in 2014. So a quick check of the forecast, the east coast was dry and we planned a trip to Norfolk.

During the morning of 31st December, the third report this winter of a LITTLE BUSTARD came thru on the airwaves; this time a bird seen, again in flight, at 08:30hrs. But this time, unlike the Dorset and Sussex birds, the bird was seen again at 11:07hrs in flight in the same area. Discussions and planning took place and we came to the decision that it was probably a bit too late in the day to set off (3hrs + journey we thought meaning 15:30hrs arrival??).

The destination for our trip was sorted. The LITTLE BUSTARD was relocated and sat in a field all afternoon. A record breaking seven Clayheads were travelling in two cars. All of my family were out baby sitting so I had the house to myself. I was in bed before 21:00hrs!!

I was up at 03:50hrs as I'd finished my sleep. Pops picked me up and CJW at 05:00hrs and off we set. PJ was in PLo's car along with RSu and JSu. The roads were surprisingly quiet for a New Years Day morning. The year ticks were flooding in. First bird of the year was a Robin singing outside the house, and the second was a Barn Owl somewhere just after Beverley.  

We turned off the main road into Fraisthorpe and we were stunned to see cars parking already. I felt we were a long way away from the field, and so I stuck to the original instructions and headed for the beach car park. As we drove down the road and past the crowd, it became obvious that this was a big twitch. The crowd already assembled in the dark was quite a long line. Cars were parked in every available bit of verge. We carried on until we reached the car park, only to be told by the car in front that it was full, and the overspill car park was locked. We turned around and found the first bit of verge to park on. At just after 08:00hrs we stood in place. It was windy, and dull, and there was a brown bird to be found in a field full of kale. Surprisingly it didn't take to long for the Little Bustard to be found. I had a brief view through my bins but then took ages to find it in my scope. It was a lot closer than we expected. And there was my third bird of the year - a Little Bustard

An incredible bird and an incredible start to the year. And yes, I have seen them abroad as well, but nothing beats seeing one on the Yorkshire coast. It was just like a twitch from the old days. A huge crowd, loads of Staffs boys, good craic and an absolute mega of a bird. It's days like these that you remember and treasure for years to come.

And the Little Bustard just sat there. Pecking at the vegetation on occasions, the odd neck stretch but that was it. We would have liked to have seen it fly, but in this wind it wasn't going anywhere.

 Little Bustard, Fraisthorpe, East Yorkshire. 1st January 2015.

At 10:00hrs, we decided to head off for a bit of year ticking. First stop was sea watching off Flamborough Head. It wasn't too bad a session with Gannet, Guillemot and Fulmar all present plus star bird, a Red-throated Diver flying past. PJ rang us about a possible Rough-legged Buzzard that was sat distantly under a bush not showing well. When we arrived, we were soon watching the distant possible Rough-legged Buzzard sitting under a bush, but it wasn't showing well. Opinion amongst the crowd was divided. Some said they couldn't tell what it was from this distance but felt it looked like a Buzzard, others said they thought it looked more like a Buzzard, but they couldn't tell from that distance. (We did receive confirmation later from PJ that the bird was in fact a Buzzard).    

We then joined the large convoy heading towards the wintering Blyth's Pipit. We took a more scenic route courtesy of the sat nav, but we still arrived moments before PJ and PLo. The Blyth's Pipit was feeding on a patch of waste land behind the KFC this time. It was here that PLo finally reaped the benefits of his carefully chosen footwear for the day - white trainers. He was able to run over the mud and leap from mound to mound as the poor pipit was flushed if it kept it's head down for more than two minutes. We had several flight views, one view on the deck and then a better view in a tree. All good fun and a marvellous way to end the day. Another good gathering of Staffs boys (including Stalker Ian who had managed to avoid us at Fraisthorpe). A two tick day for CJW as well. Edging ever closer to the @NGBirders 200 Club.

Finally, another video for you all. Of course, it's a little busted!